My school had an Exchange with a German school way back in 1954, and we have annual reunions at various venues. This year the fortunate choice was Northumberland, and Christine Bell, who organised the reunion, was once curator of the Grace Darling Museum, and is authoress of a book on that remarkable lady. She organised a visit to the Farnes. Last time I had visited, many years ago, the services of a Grace Darling were almost required! But on this occasion, the sea was like glass, and sun shone from a cloudless sky, as we wove our way out of Seahouses Harbour past the many Eider Ducks swimming around. Fulmars skimmed the waves, and Kittiwakes were soon in evidence, as Cormorants dived in front of the boat. Then two lovely pale-phase Arctic Skuas flew up behind us, and we were soon catching the whiff of the vast seabird colonies on the rocks of the many islands. Rows of Guillemots stood motionless, or swam, and fished around us, joined by only a few Razorbills, and the Cormorants dwarfed the neat, green- tinged Shags on the lower ledges. As we drew nearer, the excellent boatman, who had done this a thousand times, drew close to allow us closer looks, and photographs, and then we were in the realms of the Puffins. ‘Papageitaucher,’ was what I had to keep telling the German contingent, as I was official translator, as the charming little ‘sea-parrots’ skimmed past the boat, or posed on the ledges at point-blank range.
We landed on Brownsman Island and had great close-quarters views of the Atlantic Grey Seals, some mere babies, and Oystercatchers called plaintively from the highest point of the islet. Terns were everywhere, and the shorter legs and blood-red bills distinguished the long-travelling Arctic Terns from the similar Common Terns. A Ringed Plover and a glimpsed Turnstone just about completed the list, and we made our way back to Seahouses after a thoroughly memorable visit.